“Sometimes You Can’t Even Sleep at Night:” Social Vulnerability to Disasters among Men Experiencing Homelessness in Central Florida

August 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 2)

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There has been relatively little research on how people experiencing homelessness prepare for, experience, and recover from disasters. This oversight means emergency managers have few resources to help them plan for the needs of the homeless during disasters. The present study utilizes the social vulnerability perspective to examine the risks that natural hazards pose to unsheltered men experiencing homelessness in Central Florida and analyse the structural origins of vulnerability among the homeless. The findings presented are the result of field interviews with unsheltered men and group interviews with homeless services providers. I argue that unequal exposure, social stigma, special medical needs, and chronic unemployment aggravate exposure to hazards among individuals experiencing homelessness. I conclude with recommendations for researchers, policy makers, and emergency managers to help individuals experiencing homelessness better manage their risk.